I had lunch with an egret.
Or a heron. I can’t be sure which. But zipping by on the 10 miles of biking trails at Callaway Gardens, I stopped just in time to spot a tall bird and realize he was stalking his prey. The story ended badly for the fish, but it was a memorable experience for a couple of quiet onlookers.
This is part of the garden’s charm in winter. The 13,000-acre resort is not as crowded and you have the opportunity to see wildlife and nature in a different way. Better still, admission is free through the end of February.
Less than an hour north of Fort Benning in Pine Mountain, Ga., Callaway Gardens is always a convenient day trip, but if you’re looking for something longer, consider a weekend away.
Through March 18, Callaway Gardens is taking the chill off the season with the Warm Winter Nights Package. It includes accommodations at The Mountain Creek Villas or The Southern Pine Cottages, admission to the garden and a bundle of firewood.
The cottages are a good choice for those who want to feel like they’re out in secluded nature and yet enjoy all the comforts of modern life. You have a fully stocked kitchen — plates, mugs, pans, corkscrew, ice bucket, toaster, coffee maker, etc. — toiletries, an iron, cable TV, a screened-in porch and a deck with grill.
While it’s tempting to stay indoors by the fire in this weather, be sure to venture out and explore all Callaway offers during this time of year. The holly trail is always attractive in the winter and there are many other attractions that stay in bloom year-round.
The Day Butterfly Center boasts hundreds of butterflies in a tropical, sunny setting. It’s a good place to visit when the temperature drops outside. Watch a video about butterfly life cycles and get an up-close look at dozens of species in display cases outside the enclosure.
For nature represented through art, visit the Discovery Center. Current special exhibits showcase flora and fauna represented in metal, on china, in watercolors and on canvas. It’s also a good place to pick up maps, watch a film, grab a bite to eat or ask a question at the front desk. From there you can walk to the Memorial Chapel, where organ concerts play regularly.
The Sibley Horticultural Center is perhaps the best place to visit in colder months. The greenhouse spans five acres and features a 22-foot waterfall, exotic blooms, Mediterranean plants, bronze sculptures and trees.
If you’re staying overnight, head in early for a warm fire. They provide a block of fire starter, matches and logs, but you may want to bring some lighter fluid if you’re not used to building fires. As a novice in that field, I found the addition helpful.